Along with the partner red, this was a huge surprise when it arrived, fresh from an Island off the coast near Cannes. The monks make the most of a particularly good soil and cool, fresh coastal breezes to keep the freshness in the grapes. They also cleverly lift the peachy aromas of Chardonnay with the zest of Clairette, a local grape more suited to the warm climate.
Sore ear? Drink some Chacha. Stomach ache? Drink some Chacha. Feel grotty? Drink some Chacha. For Breakfast. This is more than Georgia’s precursor to Grappa. It’s an Alchemist’s cure-all. And we road-tested it with various members of the team swearing by this grape brandy’s curative properties. It’s got a kick, but it’s not harsh. The perfect way to help a Georgian feast down before bedtime.
Once tried, never forgotten. Wild, alive, complex. But where to begin? The 417 grape varieties (I won’t list them here)? The months on skins in a Kvevri, the earthenware vessel used to ferment wines for 8000 years here? It’s brick-red tinged, with a sourness that catches you at first, then melds into the complex flavours of a Georgian supra or feast. You have to try this. Even if it’s only once.
Honeysuckle aromas in wine are always a good sign. This has them in spades, along with a spiced melon ripeness that you’ll love. It’s bone dry and utterly fascinating. Rkatsiteli can be dull and flat, but not here where it’s been crafted into a delicious, Friday-night wine par excellence. Georgians eat richly flavoured dishes with lots of cheese and sauces. Do the same and this wine will be your friend.
It’s crackers to think that a generation ago, rose was a flibbertigibbet footnote in the wine statistics. Today there are pinks of every hue and palates from the tangy to tropical. This is in the melon, peach, strawberry, fruit salad variety. Lots of juicy fruit and light on the herbal notes. A dry wine, lovely with salads and tortillas (I discovered) but with a sun-warmed fruit.
Brawny, bold and no holds barred. Petite Sirah is the signature grape at Barra and they don’t hold back. Mocha and leather wrap up a full-bodied palate of blackberry fruit and mocha flavours. You’ll need plenty of flavour to match up to this, and hearty mouthfeel too with lots of rippling, muscular tannins. It’s smooth, but in the way a V8 engine roar is smooth. This feels American and all the better for it.
“Synesthetic” tasting notes are ones where you mix up the senses. And this wine really does taste “purple”. It’s lush and exotic, spiced and rippling with fruit. It’s exuberantly ripe and juicy. Expect some people to look at you disapprovingly over their pince nez spectacles. But stuff ‘em. Have this with pulled pork and barbecue sauce, or a burger that sits firmly in the “dirty” category.
A hidden secret in the cool hills inland from most of Provence. The coolness lifts the wines and gives them an elegant freshness so you’ll find there’s more bright fruit and less herbal weight. Perfect with the rich flavours of Provence, the wines are hard to find outside, mostly sold in restaurants along the coast. But look for Rolle on labels – it’s what Italians call Vermentino and keeps a zest in the sun.
This must be a contender (along with its white partner) for the most unusual wine of the series. Monks on this island off the coast of Cannes produce wines that are surprisingly good considering where they are. This Syrah is marked by warm blackberry and cassis flavours with a lovely spice. The Mediterranean sun softens the wine’s tannins, making it a flexible food match.
Some rosés cry out to be served with food and this is one. It has the fruit and structure to work with light meats like veal or vegetarian dishes. Think of it like light, frothy Pinot Noir (which is fundamentally what it is). And if you’re in Mornington, pop in and bottle some of your own sparkling rosé like Amelia did.
Here is winemaking that matches bold ambition with results, a poised glass mixing stone fruit and tangy lemon with the softer spiced notes of very expensive barrels and careful work in the winery. The wine’s texture coats your palate and leaves a lingering perfume long after you swallow.
Boy is this good. It brings together a trinity of citrus and peach fruit, subtle nutty oak and a minerally tang. It’s an homage to the great white Burgundies, but with an unmistakable Australian vigour. I still cannot find a better match for this than a roast chicken with salad and rice.
If you like Mornington’s precise style of Pinot Noir, be sure to try the slightly lusher, richer style of the Yarra Valley to the north. Still fresh but with more dark cherry and earthiness. Beautifully smooth and goes down gorgeously with duck or even a richly-flavoured rabbit dish.
If you don’t like this, I spurn you with my toe. It evolves through plums and cherries and the fruit has a clarity and precision from the excellent quality of the vintage. It’s one of Australia’s best and merits savoury beef or duck to match the earthy fruit and dense complexity.
I’ll declare an interest; Robert Hill-Smith was an early mentor of mine. But boy his winemakers produce angelic wines like this. Nectarine and white peach married to delicate nougat from time in barrels. Seriously classy Chardonnay needing great chicken or monkfish dishes.
Christ, crying over Lucifer’s fall from heaven, cried and left deep rivulets scarring Mount Vesuvius. Or at least that’s the story. It’s certainly a sainted spot for growing this plummy wine, made solely from Piedirosso grapes; exotically spiced with cloves and allspice with a heady warmth. Spicy Neapolitan pizza and hearty sausage are the perfect match.
A riper style of Aglianico, with more dried-fruit aromas and spice. This has soft tannins and a velvety touch. It makes it a wonderful (if slightly flash) pizza wine, but also something that works with rich meats like game or hearty steaks.
We now believe Aglianico was a principal component in Falernian – the greatest wine of the late Roman Empire. But they didn’t enjoy great-value versions like this, with the ripe, dark fruit brightened by cool-night breezes in the mountains. I love this with tagines and spiced-lamb dishes.
I’ve been in love with these wines ever since I first sold them as a young sommelier in the late ’80s. They’re not just wines; they’re living heritage, preserving the sun-baked cherry and violet flavours beloved of the ancients. Obviously good with a ragu, but also try American ribs for a divine combination.
I heartily encourage the old Langhe tradition of keeping a bottle of this on-hand to welcome unexpected visitors. Some people match Chinato with chocolate or even spiced puds, but really it’s a thing to have instead of a pud rather than with a pud. It is fragrant, spiced and exotically woody.